Transparency & Light in a Montana Home
Simplicity and structure abound in this site-sensitive home in Big Sky
Photos by Whitney Kamman
The design of every home should start and end with its site, believes Jamie Daugaard, principal of Centre Sky Architecture. So he felt lucky to be involved from the outset, including site selection, in a collaboration with West Coast clients seeking a year-round family retreat. “It was a good site,” he says of the Big Sky, Montana, property. “We had a view toward Spanish Peaks, a seasonal water element, a bit of dense forest and a bit of mountain prairie.”
As Daugaard and his clients explored the mountain-modern ethos, they settled on a farmhouse-inspired form featuring refined rustic materials combined with contemporary elements such as exposed steel framework and thin-framed aluminum-clad windows for maximizing views and light. “We hoped to build a modern mountain home with a lot of light, and that was the starting point,” says the homeowner.
Structural steel, sheet steel, timbers and glass were the major drivers of the home’s simplistic expression.
Window placement, view corridors and an open aesthetic took precedence in the design. Windows above and on one side of the front door (balanced by steel panels on the other) draw visitors in while mimicking a lantern effect at dusk; three corner windows placed throughout the house create openness while offering a visual surprise. The kitchen has views toward the mountains but also looks through an open wall above the stove and five vertical windows to the arrival courtyard.
The main stairwell furthers the aesthetic with open risers and cable sides instead of solid panels. A wood-and-metal trellis suspended over the bar creates a feeling of intimacy without compromising its airiness. And in the great room, with its square shape, high ceilings and floor-to-ceiling glass walls crowned by a simple gable roof, the effect is of a glass cube. “We put light feet onto the site,” Daugaard explains, “and then tried to be very transparent.”
At night the house glows like a lantern through ample use of glazing and a visible interior pendant suspended over the front door.
The house is a restrained yet creatively flexible 4,500 square feet with generous outdoor spaces. It anchors into a sloped site with public areas and master suite on the main floor, guest bedrooms above, and a bunkroom plus a multi-use family room with additional cleverly integrated bunks below. A detached garage and covered walkway create a sense of arrival while lending privacy from the road; the opposite side of the home enjoys sweeping mountain views.
Interior designer Bill Peace recognized that simplicity would be key, as would an organic approach that celebrated the views while utilizing a nature-inspired palette. “What’s outside needs to carry in,” Peace says. He speaks not just of views and a palette drawn from the exterior but also the materials used in construction: wood, stone, glass and steel. “It’s important to have a cohesive feeling,” he explains. “We wanted to contemplate, not compete with, the views.
The entire process was marked by the synergy that happens when a compatible group of people work in concert toward a shared vision. “The team was fantastic, starting with Jamie Daugaard and everyone at Centre Sky to our builder, Big Sky Build, and our interior designer, Peace Design,” the homeowner says. “We’re comfortable when it’s just the four of us, yet we still have the ability to host a couple of families or multiple friends. That was the balance we were trying to strike, and I think the team accomplished it.”
“There are so many aspects of the home where you hold your breath and hope they turn out as well as you envisioned in the beginning of the process. We couldn’t be happier.”
The custom-fabricated front door and hardware provides a dramatic focal point and sets the tone for the refined handcrafted experience found throughout the house.
The vertical steel element set in the stone wall dramatizes the height of the room; a suspended ceiling over the bar creates intimacy; walnut casework and white oak floors add warmth.
Floor-to-ceiling windows in the great room take in views of the Spanish Peaks. The square shape, simple gable roof, glass walls and high ceilings create a dramatic glass-cube effect.
Around the hearth, low-profile furniture and a neutral palette keep the focus on the natural world.
Interior designer Bill Peace introduced interest and sculptural form through lighting fixtures like the long cylinder above the dining table.
A multi-purpose room cleverly incorporates extra bunks into a game/lounge space.
“We tried hard not to use multiple colors and types of woods,” says Peace. “There are grays and browns and subtle hints of blues in the stone; that’s where our palette came from.”
“The clients, says designer Bill Peace, “wanted a fresh approach.” In the master bedroom this is achieved through large windows, restrained furnishings, neutral colors and a whimsical retro lighting fixture.
FINISHING THE MOUNTAIN MODERN LOOK:
The hallmarks of the contemporary rustic look are clean lines, a simple palette, an opening to the outdoors and uncluttered interiors. How then does one inject personality, color, warmth and even some whimsy into such spaces? Hardware and lighting are the key. Hardware is decorative and functional but also tactile. The statement begins at the door with a handcrafted piece with striking geometric door pulls, and suggests what is to follow. “It complements the building but is an art piece in and of itself,” says designer Bill Peace. Once inside, hardware is sleek and echoes the exposed steel tracery of the house. Lighting is essential for creating ambience and warmth and, especially in modern-leaning interiors, for infusing a space with personality. As window sizes increase, available space for artwork shrinks; lighting does double duty as sculpture.